Some books are simply fun and entertaining to read. Some books are good to read because of their mastery of language and form. A few books manage both. Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest, written by William Henry Hudson (1841–1922), is one such work. While its entertainment value led to it being a huge sales success upon initial publication in 1904, its lasting power and inclusion into the realm of being a ‘classic’ of literature (albeit second tier) stems from what George Macy called its “evocative and lyrical prose” combined with Hudson’s “keen vision of the jungle.”
Hudson, who was born in Argentina and settled in England while in his 30’s, gained his ‘keen vision’ of the jungle from his background as an adventurer, naturalist and artist. He traveled throughout the northern parts of South America, devoting significant time to zoological and biological pursuits. He wrote Green Mansions about the people he saw during these travels, travels in which he surely also heard long talked of rumors about a ‘tribe’ of white people living remotely in the mountains. Hudson’s first hand knowledge of the area and its people, combined with his love of nature and melodic writing ability, resulted in the beautiful romance that is Green Mansions. Macy says that “under the sheer artistry of Hudson’s pen, it becomes a faint pale tapestry, of people and birds and animals and sights and sounds…”
Hudson, through the main character Abel, says:
Imagination was the bread that gave me strength, the wine that exhilarated.
Hudson’s background knowledge, expanded upon by his vivid imagination, provides us an adventurous romance that exhilarates our senses. For those of you who have not read this work, consider this a recommendation to do so! It deserves the status of a classic for all the ‘right’ critical reasons, with the added benefit of being quite entertaining. As Macy says, it should be read:
far and wide by people who are interested in reading a book for sheer entertainment, by people who are interested in reading a book in order to roll the beauty of fine English prose over their thirsty tongues.
Like most works published by the Limited Editions Club (LEC) in the 1930’s, this one is very nicely done. It was designed and printed by Carl J. H. Anderson of Franklin Printing Company of Philadelphia. The book contains 26 color illustrations drawn by American artist/illustrator Edward A. Wilson, reproduced by offset lithography by Bauer Lithograph Company. The illustrations are not strictly narrative based, but instead are focused on the:
mood with which the author wrote the chapter… They are riant with color; they are full of bright pale yellow, bright pale green, bright pale scarlet, bright pale blue…woven into a softly pleasuring effect upon the page.
In the Quarto-Millenary, George Macy said:
Edward A. Wilson is a practitioner of advertising art, yet he is pre-eminent among the illustrators of books in this century; I know of no other artist who shares his eminence in both fields. His illustrations for this book are, I think, among his best; his drawings are done with decision and a fine suggestiveness, and he applied color to them as the best of the French illustrators would, and this is a complement.
I agree that his illustrations in Green Mansions are among Wilson’s best. You will see a number of examples of such below. The text is set in monotype Centaur. Centaur was designed by Bruce Rogers in 1915, derived from work by Nicolas Jenson in the late fifteenth century. The type in Green Mansions is printed delicately without deep impression, which Macy tells us he does not like (preferring a “sharp impression” upon the page), though he admits that Rogers “dressed us down” for having that opinion.
The Worthy special rag paper is a standout for this edition. It is thin, with a slightly greenish/yellow tint to it, perfect for this story. The Monthly Letter (ML) tells us that pale green, red and brown dyes were used in the making of the paper. The binding was done by George McKibbin & Son in half natural eggshell French linen, stamped in scarlet, with cloth sides lithographed from finger paint design of tangled foliage by Edward A. Wilson. Last but not least, this LEC edition contains and introduction by famed American naturalist, explorer and author William Beebe.
All in all, this is a very good story and a very good book, nicely designed and executed which can be found in near fine or better condition, despite being 80 years old, for $50-100. In short, find it and buy it!
About the Edition
- Designed by Carl J. H. Anderson
- Introduction by William Beebe
- Illustrations in color drawn by Edward A. Wilson, reproduced by offset lithography by Bauer Lithograph Company
- Printed at the Franklin Printing Company, Philadelphia
- Set in monotype Centaur
- Worthy special rag paper
- Bound by George McKibbin & Son in half natural eggshell French linen, stamped in scarlet, cloth sides lithographed from finger paint design by Edward A. Wilson
- 224 pages, 6 3/4″ x 10 1/4″
- Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Edward A. Wilson
Pictures of the Edition
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